The War of the Worlds
  • By Kate Nora
  • |
  • 26th Aug 2019
  • |
  • ★★★★★

If you saw a live news report of an alien invasion on a network you trusted, would you believe it? Rhum & Clay’s production of The War of the Worlds poses that exact question to its audience.

The lighting is enough to make you believe in aliens

Orson Wells’ 1938 radio broadcast was an iconic moment in media history, partly due to the rumours that some Americans believed it to be a real news story. Are we more or less gullible in 2019 than those original listeners? Isley Lynn’s sensational script compares stories from the original broadcast to the ‘fake news’ phenomenon we face as a society in the 21st century. Who is to blame? The people spreading false or misleading information, or the consumers who don’t bother to fact check? Do we really just believe what we want to believe, no matter what?

The cast are absolutely in sync, moving seamlessly through each scene—flashbacks, commentary, live reporting—travelling over continents and through time with ease and deliberation. Both the lighting and sound design rely heavily on precise cues and rigid timing, all carried off flawlessly (at least from an audience perspective). Matthew Wells deserves special mention for his incredible choreography (or movement, as described in the programme) which aids the scene transitions admirably and adds to the overall high production value. The set is inventive and perfectly suited for the purpose—simple and clean, but with many extra features invisible to the audience until the exact right moment. At some points, the lighting is enough to make you believe in aliens. What other show can say that?

Jess Mabel Jones is very believable as the ambitious young reporter with a conscience, while Amalia Vitale’s portrayal of Lawson is so vibrant you will almost feel like you know the character personally. Wells adds a splash of comic relief as Ted, the vaping internet troll living in his parent’s basement (figuratively speaking), while Julian Spooner, alongside Vitale, brings an element of vulnerability and authenticity to the show’s heartwarming Skype reunion scene.

Rhum & Clay have an uncanny ability to place the audience exactly where they need to be to fully appreciate every facet of the story. We are in the radio studio, at the UFO crash site, in small town America, seated around the dinner table. But above all, we are at a masterful and unforgettable performance at the Fringe.

Reviews by Kate Nora

Traverse Theatre

Clybourne Park

★★★★
PQA Venues @Riddle's Court

More Myself Than I Am

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

The War of the Worlds

★★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Found Footage Festival: Volume 9

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Two Hearts: The Comeback Tour

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

'No-one would have believed in the early years of the twentieth century that this world was being watched...' But we did believe. Written with Isley Lynn (Skin A Cat) and inspired by Orson Welles' radio broadcast, The War of the Worlds explores the ongoing power of fake events to cause real reactions. Intense, unsettling and entertaining, this super-smart and multi-layered show proves that in dark times the truth is a precious commodity. **** (Guardian). **** (Observer). **** (Stage). Winners: The Stage Edinburgh Award 2018 (Mistero Buffo) Pleasance Indie, Best Theatre Production 2017 (Testosterone).

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